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By Ellen Tait on

World Book Day – How the railways spread a love of the written word

Karen, our librarian, shares one of the rarer books from our collection. 

Happy World Book Day! Did you know that the railways had a huge impact on literature, helping spread a love of reading throughout the population?

National Railway Museum world book day
A rare copy of a Yellowback within our collection

This is a rare copy of a Yellowback book. Yellowbacks were produced for sale at railway bookstalls such as W H Smith. They largely had bright yellow or gaudy covers as a marketing ploy to make them stand out from their more sedate shelf-partners and encourage the burgeoning commuting public to part with their money.

National Railway Museum W H Smith
W H Smith bookstall, Manchester Victoria Station, c 1926.
© National Railway Museum / SSPL

It’s an important part of the collection as it is a good example of how railways were the facilitators in bringing literature to the general public and tells us a bit about passengers’ travelling habits, tastes and pastimes. What better object for World Book Day than a book that helped our ancestors foster the reading habit!

For more information on our amazing collection of books see our website.

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